Software engineers focus on large, complex, and critical software systems that are interwoven into our daily lives.
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What will I learn?
Large, critical complex software systems are part of everyday life. For example large-scale infrastructures such as power distribution and traffic systems or autonomous vehicles or machinery, or personal online systems such as My eHealth and MyTax are run on complex software products. Demands to design, develop, deploy and maintain these systems are growing.
The fundamental focus for software engineers is to ensure that systems are resilient, perform as expected the first time and every time throughout their life, including the ability to deal with unusual combinations of events.
The Software Engineering major teaches you about the physical design, analysis and management of software to ensure safe, reliable, secure and maintainable systems. It goes beyond programming; you will develop skills to identify issues with existing systems and create new possibilities with the application of large-scale software design.
Roles be found in almost every large organisation across industry sectors including medical, transport, aviation, defence, telecommunications, banking and finance, tertiary research and development.
The software systems that we’re starting to develop in the world are becoming very large and very complex, and we depend on them. Now, depending on something that has been – how do you say – not well engineered is a little risky, so if we’re going to do these things, I would like there to be people who are capable of doing it well. It’s a course for its time – the software systems that people are starting to build now, as I say, are getting bigger and more complex, and their lives are beginning to depend on them. You think in terms of, say, electricity distribution, it gets to the stage where the system is so big that we don’t quite understand how it all works, simply because there are so many different parts and different parts are interacting. Now, at the moment, it hasn’t quite reached that stage, but when it does, we’ll need software engineers who understand what they’re doing in dealing with this thing so that they don’t make some change and shut the whole electricity grid down. The first year will be spent learning basic knowledge to do with programming and professional engineering. In the second year, they will start doing studios, is what they’re called, but essentially they’re a two-term-long lab where they will be able to practice software engineering in – as near as reality as we can get. In the third year, they again will do more knowledge-based subjects – they have to learn their knowledge, but again there will be another two-term-long studio where we will ramp it up a bit and start exploring what it’s like in reality to try and determine what kind of a software system this company needs. Because they don’t quite know themselves, so we’ll have to construct the software engineering methods that can cope with that. And then in the fourth year, they’ll have the third studio, where rather like nobody quite knows what to do, so part of it’s going to be discovering what to do before we start to construct the system to do it, and then to build that system to a very professional level. So overall there’ll be the introduction of the core subjects in the early years, and then a progression to more advanced subjects and an expansion out to other subjects, so in the later years, there is the possibility of double degrees and combining with other faculties, as well as this thread of studios all the way through so that they do develop the professional skills that they will need. This course will prepare students for the workplace mainly through two different features of the course. The first one is the studios that will go through the second, third and fourth years where students do tackle a realistic problem in a semi-laboratory environment, the problems being mostly provided by industry so that it is realistic. The second way in which we’ll prepare them for the workplace is with two industry placements. These will be taken, I think, after the second year and after the third year. These are two six-month placements where the students go into industry and work. Usually we find that this strongly relates the theoretical knowledge they’ve learnt at university to what goes on in the workplace, and also feeds back into the university what the industry is requiring at the time. So between the studios and the work placements, I think students will be well prepared for the workplace.
The outlook for graduates is looking very good. There is in fact a shortfall in graduates in the area at the current moment, and with the increase in activity with Internet of Things and other applications, there will be a bright future for software engineers in Australia. There are quite a wide range of career paths. At the moment, there is a lot of activity in the mobile device area, so writing applications to run on mobile device platforms and also embedded microcontrollers and sensors and monitoring equipment. Another area that’s quite exciting is autonomous vehicles and intelligent highway systems, so there are many areas of industry where software engineers will find a place. So by completing a software engineering degree and ultimately becoming DPEng, the student allows themselves to enter into these critical software areas.
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